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Eyeing China’s growing influence in Indo-Pacific, Germany steps up military ties with ‘reliable’ India

A file image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin (Image courtesy: PIB)

German Air Force chief Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz has proposed a joint exercise with the Indian Air Force (IAF) – a move that is not surprising as Berlin is refocusing its future engagement in the Indo-Pacific and, like France, has put New Delhi at the centre of its maritme strategy.

Concerned about China’s geostrategic striving for supremacy, which is challenging the other neighbouring countries, the navies of both countries are also scheduled to hold a joint exercise later this year during the Indo-Pacific deployment of German warships.

As they step up bilateral defence ties and engage in more military exercises, both countries believe that a concrete cooperation will deepen the trust in a region that is shaping the future international order.

“India has the third largest air force in the world. During his visit to New Delhi, Gen Lt Ingo Gerhartz spoke with the Indian Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari about possible cooperation and promoted the idea of a joint exercise next year in India,” the German Air Force said after Wednesday’s meeting between the two air force chiefs.

Over the last three days, Gerhartz has held crucial talks with Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Naval the Staff (CNS) Admiral R Hari Kumar besides CAS Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari to discuss new avenues of collaboration towards bolstering defence ties and ops engagements.

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German Air Force chief Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz with CAS Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari (Image courtesy: Twitter/@Team_Luftwaffe)

On Thursday, the German Air Force chief visited the IAF’s Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment in Gwalior where he was introduced to various operational and tactical training aspects. He also shared his views on various training aspects of Germany.

The last 12 months have seen defence ties becoming a key pillar of the India-Germany Strategic Partnership as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have met several times spotlighting their mutual commitment to growth of the multifaceted relationship between the two largest democratic economies of the world.

Germany is concerned with the increasing Chinese belligerence in the Indo-Pacific and has a strategic interest in free sea routes as more than 20 per cent of German trade is with countries in the region.

As Berlin began to see Beijing as a partner in global challenges, a competitor and “increasingly as a systemic rival”, it amplified exchange with actors from the region and saw India as a trusted friend for it to have a good assessment of the challenges that lie ahead.

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with the German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius (Image courtesy: Twitter/@BMVg_Bundeswehr)

In June, Boris Pistorius became the first German Defence Minister to visit India since 2015 and called New Delhi a “strategically reliable partner” which should be treated at par with Australia and Japan when it comes to German arms exports.

It was in his presence that Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems – a German world market leader in non-nuclear submarines – signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited on the intended construction of conventional, Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines.

The MoU laid the foundations for the German company’s future cooperation with India’s premier defence shipyard to compete in the Indian Navy’s tender for the supply of six submarines in a deal believed to be worth six billion Euros.

In a meeting with his German counterpart, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh suggested that India and Germany could build a more symbiotic relationship based on shared goals and complementarity of strength, namely skilled workforce and competitive costs from India and high technologies and investment from Germany.

He mentioned the opportunities that have opened up in the defence production sector, including the possibilities for German investments in the two Defence Industrial Corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

“The Indian defence industry could participate in the supply chains of the German defence industry and add value to the ecosystem, besides contributing to supply chain resilience,” Singh told Pistorius who wrapped up his India visit after a trip to the headquarters of the Western Naval Command in Mumbai.

At the same time, amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Germany continues to enhance its military strength like never before.

The German media quoted Gerhartz as saying on Friday that the country will soon acquire 60 Chinooks following which it will own NATO’s second largest helicopter fleet, after the United States.

Also Read: Germany seeks joint arms production, submarine deal with India as Indo-Pacific becomes global hotspot